Scottish independence: Alex Salmond ‘tried to block’ financial body report that described ‘major risks and uncertainties’ of Yes vote

First Minister reportedly made ‘forceful’ phone call to Scottish Financial Enterprise chairman in bid to discourage publication of damning report

The Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of trying to “bully” business leaders into dropping a report on the impacts of independence.

The accusations relate to a briefing paper published in March by the country’s financial services body that said higher costs, complexity and uncertainty in the aftermath of a “Yes” vote would likely damage the interests of Scottish businesses.

It was published by the influential Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), which represents companies employing up to 200,000 people and describes itself as “politically neutral”.

According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Salmond and other senior members of the SNP Government tried to “discourage [SFE] from saying anything” in a series of “forceful” conversations at the end of last year.

A spokesperson for SFE told the newspaper that the First Minister himself phoned up the body’s chairman, Sir Ewan Brown, with the aim of discouraging the publication of the report.

And a source at the organisation reportedly said of the SNP’s alleged pressurising: “It wasn't exactly very pleasant to be honest.”

A spokesperson for Mr Salmond admitted the call took place but told the Telegraph it had more been about “making sure whatever was published was properly balanced” than blocking the report altogether.

But Ian Murray, a Labour MP, said the telephone calls proved the First Minister had been “personally involved in trying to bully business leaders into silence”.

Video: Salmond 'treasury is scaremongering'

He said: “The First Minister has mis-used the power of his office. Both he and [finance minister] John Swinney have personally tried to suppress a report from one of our most important and impartial organisations simply because he knew that the questions and issues raised by that report would damage their case for independence.”

Owen Kelly, SFE Chief Executive, said: “Ministers in the Scottish Government made calls to some of our members and to our Chairman, as they are entitled to do – it would be odd for Ministers not to speak to senior figures in our industry and we welcome contacts at this level.

“These calls were intended to discourage SFE from commenting on the independence question but our position was explained and the world moved on.”

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